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Trump just did his first TV interview since his coronavirus diagnosis. It did not go well.

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One day after President Donald Trump posted a video on his Twitter account that raised more questions about his health than it answered, he called into Maria Bartiromo’s Fox Business show for his first live interview since he announced his positive test for the coronavirus nearly a week ago.

Trump sounded hoarse, but ultimately the interview will likely raise more questions about his mental than physical health. That’s because over the course of an hour, Trump made comments that were nonsensical — even by his standards — about a variety of topics, including the coronavirus and how he possibly got it, and his desire that his political rivals be prosecuted for unspecified crimes just weeks out from the election.

The interview began with Trump announcing, “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate” and that he will pull out of next week’s scheduled second debate with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, which is to be held remotely because of Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis.

Trump clearly wanted people to believe that his reasons for doing so are about his objections to the format, but the rest of his public therapy session with Bartiromo suggested his team might also have concerns about the debate turning out to be even more of a debacle than the widely panned performance at the first debate last week.

“Remember this: When you catch it you get better, and then you’re immune”

As you’d expect, Bartiromo began by asking Trump a string of questions about his health and how he’s feeling after his hospitalization and at least two coronavirus-related health crises. Trump responded with wild boasts — “I‘m back because I’m a perfect physician specimen, and I’m extremely young” he claimed — and dangerous lies.

Echoing the line he’s recently been pushing about how Americans shouldn’t let the coronavirus dominate their lives, Trump told Bartiromo, “Remember this: When you catch it you get better, and then you’re immune.”

But not everyone gets better. The coronavirus has killed 210,000 Americans and counting and has ruined the health of thousands of others who survived. Furthermore, there are documented cases of people being infected more than once, so it is not true that someone who gets Covid-19 ends up being “immune.”

As the White House refuses to say when Trump’s last negative coronavirus test occurred — fueling speculation that he may have exposed Biden to it at last week’s presidential debate — Trump suggested he might’ve gotten infected by Gold Star families at an event that took place the day after a reckless event nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, which has been linked with a number of cases.

“I met with Gold Star families. I didn’t want to cancel that,” he said. “I can’t say, ‘Back up’ … they wanna hug me and they wanna kiss me, and they do.”

Blaming military families for his coronavirus diagnosis is on brand for Trump, but there’s no reason to believe it’s true. And instead of doing robust contact tracing to determine the origins of the White House case cluster, the Trump administration has instead tried to sweep the whole issue under the rug and move on with campaigning as quickly as possible.

Regardless of how he got it, Trump wants people to believe he’s the first person in the world to contract the coronavirus and feel better less than a week later. Despite his haggard voice and sickly appearance in the Twitter video he posted Wednesday, Trump told Bartiromo he feels “perfect.” He said he hadn’t been tested for coronavirus recently but added, “I’m essentially very clean.”

Trump’s authoritarian rhetoric about Democrats is completely over the top

On the topic of Wednesday’s vice presidential debate, Trump’s analysis was basically limited to smearing Sen. Kamala Harris as a “communist” and “monster.” Without a shred of irony, Trump repeatedly made dark insinuations about Biden’s health, claiming at one point that the former vice president “won’t make it two months as president.”

But arguably even more unhinged was Trump’s repeated calls for Attorney General Bill Barr to bring charges against Biden, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton for unspecified crimes, just weeks before the presidential election.

“Unless Bill Barr indicts these people for crimes — the greatest political crime in the history of our country — then we’ll get little satisfaction,” he said. “And that includes Obama and it includes Biden … we have everything … I say, Bill, we have plenty.”

Later, as Bartiromo tried to bring the interview to an end, Trump shouted, apropos of nothing, “Why isn’t Hillary Clinton being indicted?!”

To be clear, Trump is not making a credible accusation in saying that Biden, Obama, or Clinton actually committed crimes. But he appears to be trying to recreate October 2016, when he exploited the FBI’s renewed attention on the Clinton email investigation to damage her just enough to eek out his victory in the Electoral College.

The problem for Trump is that polls currently show him trailing Biden by about nine points nationally — a spread far wider than the lead Clinton enjoyed over Trump at a comparable point in the 2016 campaign. Instead of grappling with that reality, however, Trump told Bartiromo “I don’t believe the polls” and touted MAGA boat parades and truckers.

“They have a boat thing, they have 5,000 boats, they have thousands of trucks all over the country. I don’t believe the polls,” he said.

While it might be tempting to surmise that Trump’s compromised health has resulted in his odd behavior since his coronavirus diagnosis — including a number of bizarre photo ops and incoherent, angry binges of posting on Twitter — the truth is all of this is more or less on brand for Trump.

For instance, during his interview with Bartiromo, Trump repeatedly made a total mess out of easy questions about what he hopes to accomplish in a second term. But mangling softball questions of that sort has been a staple of his Fox News interviews going back months.

Ultimately, to the extent that Trump’s interview with Bartiromo indicates he’s feeling better physically, that’s a good thing. But amid questions about the side effects of his ongoing Covid-19 treatments, he will need to do more to convince voters he is mentally and emotionally prepared for the rigors of the presidency — and the campaign trail.


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Philippines: Typhoon Molave displaces thousands, floods villages

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At least 25,000 people evacuated in the Philippines as heavy rains and fierce winds swamp villages and rip off roofs.

Thousands of villagers were forced to flee their homes in the Philippines as a fast-moving typhoon made landfall, flooding rural villages, ripping off roofs and toppling trees and powerlines, officials said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from Typhoon Molave, but authorities on Monday reported at least one person was missing and seven others were rescued after their yacht sank off Batangas province south of Manila.

The typhoon has sustained winds of 125 kilometres per hour (77 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 180 km/h (112mph) and was blowing westward at 25 km/h (15 mph). Molave is expected to start blowing out of the country into the South China Sea on Monday, government forecasters said.

At least 25,000 villagers were displaced with about 20,000 taking shelter in schools and government buildings which were turned into evacuation centres, according to the Office of Civil Defense.

Residents evacuate from their home in the coastal area of Legaspi City, Albay province south of Manila on October 25, 2020, in advance of tropical storm Molave’s expected landfall [Charism Sayat/ AFP]

“Villagers are now asking to be rescued because of the sudden wind which blew away roofs,” Humerlito Dolor, governor of Oriental Mindoro province, told DZMM radio.

Dolor said pounding rains overnight swamped farming villages in his province, then fierce winds toppled trees and power posts early on Monday, knocking out power. Authorities were clearing roads of fallen trees and debris in some towns after the typhoon passed, he said.

More than 1,800 cargo truck drivers, workers and passengers were stranded in ports after the coastguard barred ships and ferry boats from venturing into rough seas.

Molave follows Tropical Storm Saudel, which last week caused widespread flooding in Quezon province in the Calabarzon region, southeast of the capital Manila.

About 20 typhoons and storms annually batter the Philippines, and the Southeast Asian archipelago is seismically active, with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

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Celebrations in Chile as voters back rewriting constitution

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Tens of thousands of Chileans have taken to Santiago’s main square in celebration after people across the country overwhelmingly backed re-writing Chile’s dictatorship-era constitution that many see as the root cause of the country’s social and economic inequalities.

In Santiago’s Plaza Italia, the focus of the massive and often violent protests last year which sparked the demand for a new charter, fireworks rose above huge crowds of jubilant people singing in unison late on Sunday as the word “rebirth” was beamed onto a tower above.

With more than three-quarters of the votes counted in Sunday’s referendum, 78.12 percent of voters had opted for a new constitution drafted by citizens. Many have expressed hopes that a new text will temper an unabashedly capitalist ethos with guarantees of more equal rights to healthcare, pensions and education.

“This triumph belongs to the people, it’s thanks to everyone’s efforts that we are at this moment of celebration,” Daniel, 37, told Reuters News Agency in Santiago’s Plaza Nunoa. “What makes me happiest is the participation of the youth, young people wanting to make changes.”

Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera said if the country had been divided by the protests and debate about whether to approve or reject plans for a new charter, from now on they should unite behind a new text that provided “a home for everyone”.

People play instruments at Plaza Italia on the day Chileans vote in a referendum to decide whether the country should replace its 40-year-old constitution, written during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, in Santiago, Chile [Esteban Felix/AP]

“Until now, the constitution has divided us. From today, we must all work together so that the new constitution is the great framework of unity, stability and future,” he said in a speech broadcast from his Moneda Palace surrounded by his cabinet.

The centre-right leader, whose popularity ratings plummeted to record lows during the unrest and have remained in the doldrums, spoke to those who wanted to keep the present constitution credited with making Chile one of Latin America’s economic success stories.

Any new draft must incorporate “the legacy of past generations, the will of present generations and the hopes of generations to come,” he said.

‘A better life’

The vote came a year to the day after more than one million people thronged downtown Santiago amid a wave of social unrest that left 30 people dead and thousands wounded.

The sheer size of the October 25 march demonstrated the breadth of social discontent and proved a tipping point in demonstrators’ demands for a referendum. Within weeks, Pinera had agreed to initiate a process to draft a new constitution, beginning with a referendum to decide the fate of the current text.

Chile’s current constitution was drafted by the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, and was sent to voters at a time where political parties had been banned and the country was subject to heavy censorship.

It was approved by a 66 percent – 30 percent margin in a 1980 plebiscite, but critics said many voters were cowed into acceptance by a regime that had arrested, tortured and killed thousands of suspected leftist opponents following the overthrow of an elected socialist government.

The free-market principles embodied in that document led to a booming economy that continued after the return to democracy in 1990, but not all Chileans shared. A minority was able to take advantage of good, privatised education, health and social security services, while others were forced to rely on sometimes meagre public alternatives. Public pensions for the poorest are slightly more than $200 a month, roughly half the minimum wage.

Cristina Cifuentes, a Santiago-based political analyst, called Sunday’s results a “big blow for the conservative parties” and said a new constitution was necessary to provide equitable access to healthcare, education and pensions systems.

“If you’re born in the least affluent areas of the city, you don’t have access to a good health system, you don’t have good education, you don’t have transport. And you can’t even dream of having a better life. It affects all aspects of life in Chile and that’s why it was so important for Chileans to change the constitution,” she told Al Jazeera.

Demonstrators supporting the reform of the Chilean constitution celebrate while waiting for the referendum official results at Plaza Italia in Santiago on October 25, 2020 [Javier Torres/AFP]
People embrace as others gather to protest against Chile’s government during a referendum on a new Chilean constitution in Santiago, Chile, October 25, 2020 [Ivan Alvarado/Reuters]

‘New beginning’

As votes were counted on Sunday on live television, spontaneous parties broke out on street corners and in squares around the country. Drivers honked car horns, some as revellers danced on their roofs, and others banged pots and pans. The flag of the country’s Indigenous Mapuche people, who will seek greater recognition in the new charter, was ubiquitous.

Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman, reporting from Plaza Italia, said the landslide victory had given Chileans something to celebrate after a year of sometimes violent protests.

“Many people know it’s going to take at least two years to have a new constitution, and that would only set a roadmap for the future. It won’t solve all of this country’s problems, but at least it does give them hope for a new beginning,” she said.

Four-fifths of voters said they wanted the new charter to be drafted by a specially elected body of citizens – made up of half women and half men – over a mixed convention of legislators and citizens, highlighting general mistrust in Chile’s political class.

Members of a 155-seat constitutional convention will be voted in by April 2021 and have up to a year to agree upon a draft text, with proposals approved by a two-thirds majority.

Among issues likely to be at the fore are recognition of Chile’s Mapuche Indigenous population, powers of collective bargaining, water and land rights and privatised systems providing healthcare, education and pensions.

Chileans will then vote again on whether they accept the text or want to revert to the previous constitution.

The National Mining Society (Sonami), which groups the companies in the sector into the world’s largest copper producer, said it hoped for “broad agreement on the principles and norms” that determine the sector’s coexistence with Chilean citizens and that the regulatory certainty that have allowed the sector to flourish would continue.

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A Lebanese artist created an inspiring statue out of glass and rubble from the Beirut port explosion

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Written by Alaa Elassar, CNN

Hayat Nazer doesn’t remember a time when Lebanon was at peace. But she has learned to channel her grief and pain into beautiful works of art.

She was on her way to Beirut on August 4 when a massive stockpile of ammonium nitrite exploded at the port, killing 190 people, injuring more than 6,000 and leaving more than 300,000 displaced from their homes.
Lebanon had already been reeling from months of political turmoil, economic collapse and a worsening coronavirus outbreak. The weight of it all had nearly paralyzed the small country.

“The explosion broke my heart. I was just devastated. I was traumatized, but honestly, all of us in Lebanon are traumatized,” Nazer, 33, told CNN.

Like many residents, she joined efforts to clean debris and restore the city to its former glory. That’s when she got the idea to use some of what she found to create a statue that could inspire her people to unite and rebuild.

“When I’m feeling that way I just try to help, and fix and heal through art, so this is my way of accepting reality and trying to build my people back up,” she said.

A Lebanese artist made a statue of a woman using glass and rubble from the Beirut port explosion

The unnamed scultpure made from explosion debris depicts a woman with long flowing hair. Credit: Courtesy Hayat Nazer

For weeks, Nazer walked the streets of Beirut, collecting twisted metal, broken glass and people’s discarded belongings to use in the sculpture.

“I traveled to people’s homes after they were destroyed by the explosion and told them, ‘I just want you to give me anything I can include to make you a part of my sculpture,'” Nazer said.

“I was shocked. People gave me such valuable things — things from their childhood, their grandparents who died in the civil war, things they wanted to save for their children. So many emotions went into this.”

When Nazer finally had enough items, she put them together — creating a woman raising Lebanon’s flag, her hair and dress flowing in the wind. The sculpture, which still doesn’t have a name, even features a damaged clock stuck at 6:08, the moment of the explosion.

For Nazer, the process was cathartic. But it wasn’t the first time she had created a work of art inspired by Lebanon’s social and political troubles.

A Lebanese artist made a statue of a woman using glass and rubble from the Beirut port explosion

Nazer stands beside her sculpture of a woman made entirely from Beirut port explosion debris. Credit: Courtesy Hayat Nazer

Before the explosion, as the country descended into months of protests against the country’s ruling elite, Nazer left her job in communications to create art in hopes of inspiring change.

“I suddenly started feeling the need to paint,” Nazer said. “It was a need that I couldn’t stop. I had to quit my job because I felt like I just couldn’t make the change I want to see in the world without focusing on my art.”

Her works include other found object sculptures, as well as graffiti and paintings on canvas.

In 2019, she created a sculpture called “The Phoenix,” which was made from tents broken by counterprotesters during the country’s political upheaval. The work depicts the mythological bird rising from ashes. She also created a giant heart from stones and tear gas canisters left over from riots.
Nazer, who chronicles her projects on Instagram, said most of her work has been destroyed by authorities who don’t take kindly to criticism of the government.

Related video: The architectural heritage Beirut stands to lose

She fears the same fate will befall her latest work, the sculpted woman.

“After an explosion, you can build back homes and buildings, but what you can’t bring back are memories. And throughout Lebanon’s history, our government removes anything that reminds us of what has been done to us,” Nazer said.

“That’s what makes this project so special. It’s fighting. We’re raising our voices through art. We’re telling our own stories.”

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